"I’d rather give him a couple of days of rest and have him healthy for Game 3 rather than pushing him now and making it worse."Sekou Smith, in his latest blog post:
The first thing you hear in the Hawks’ locker room after a bad loss is, “We didn’t play together. We didn’t help each other out. We’ve got to blah, blah, blah.”
If you think I’m making this stuff up, here’s a sampling (edited ever so slightly to omit the verbal offender’s specific identity) of what’s come out of the mouths of your Hawks after playoff losses the past few weeks:
“We just have to play with a sense of urgency like we did in Game 1. We have to get after them defensively. And as long as we share the ball offensively, I think everything else on the floor clicks.”
“We’re up against it now. And we’ve got look at ourselves in the mirror and realize that we can’t get out of this mess without doing it together.”
“We’ve just got to pick up our intensity. We’ve got to do a lot of things. But it all stems from our effort. We have to play hard as a unit. That’s the key for us. And we have to bring that [today]. Because our backs are against the wall now, really against the wall. We’re going to see what this team is made of.”
“We came out and talked about hitting them first and not letting things get out of hand early like they did in Game 2. But we let them hit us first again.”
“We lost our composure, no doubt. Things weren’t going our way, calls weren’t going our way and we lost it. We let them build that big lead and it got to us. We were never in sync defensively and we just didn’t handle ourselves well.”
“In the second half we just didn’t get into any offensive sets. We were careless with the ball. We had too many turnovers. Any time we have 17 turnovers it’s never a good night for us.”
“It was very disappointing, knowing that we’ve come this far. Looking back on the first series that we had (with Miami), that was very tough, and I thought we would come into this game a little more enthused and come ready to play. I thought we had a pretty good first half, but the second half wasn’t so great.”
It never fails.
These Hawks said they wanted to improve their record, have the home court edge in Round 1 and advance to Round 2. They managed all of the above. To lose now to the top-seeded Cavaliers in a competitive series would be no disgrace. But they don’t want to be embarrassed four games running. That would cheapen them and their accomplishments. That would leave what has been a most palatable season with a sour aftertaste.I'd like to offer a theory that appeals to me, in part, because it partially, retroactively redeems my 34-win prediction. What if this team over-achieved during the regular season? What if they maxed out their abilities and their bodies covering for the loss of their sixth man before the season and for injuries to all three of their frontcourt starters during the season and still winning ten more games than last year to secure home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs? Would it not make sense under that premise for the team to look, at times, woefully inferior to playoff opposition when missing two starters who are vital to both the team's spacing on offense and the team's defensive concept?
As I said, there's a self-serving element to that so I'm open to criticism but perhaps the primary lesson the organization should be taking from these blowout playoff losses is not one of effort, teamwork, or pride but that this roster needs more talent. I'd love to see Acie Law IV develop into a solid NBA point guard but if the head coach isn't going to play him he's not worth as much to this franchise as a point guard* that the head coach will play.
*And there has to be a competent point guard somewhere in the world that Mike Woodson would trust to use as a back up.
The good news, with regard to those even further down the depth chart than Law, is that it would be difficult to assemble a less useful collection of players to fill the end of the bench. The Hawks should be better, cumulatively, from players 10 through 15 next year. On a clear day I can even see a team taking Speedy Claxton's expiring contract.
Of course they could just as easily decide to bring back Mike Bibby and Pachulia* and try and repeat the trick. Should be an interesting summer.
*With Solomon Jones's "potential" as insurance.